In the comments to this post about the need for an international effort in Iraq, Porphy wound up and tossed a fastball over the plate, challenging me to show:
…an outline of
1) Who they think we will get on board that we don’t already have.
2) What terms they will demand.
3) Taking into account their stated position on the expansive, ambitious goals we have vs. “stability” in the region.
OK, here goes.
Typically, when I think about a market, one of the first things I think about is ‘the marketing universe'; how much effective supply or demand is out there? In this case, the issue is where is the effective supply of military power?
In 2000, the Top 10 looked like this:
| 1. China | 2,810,000 |
| 2. Russia | 1,520,000 |
| 3. United States | 1,366,000 |
| 4. India | 1,303,000 |
| 5. Korea, South | 683,000 |
| 6. Pakistan | 612,000 |
| 7. Turkey | 610,000 |
| 8. Iran | 513,000 |
| 9. Vietnam | 484,000 |
|10. Egypt | 448,000 |
The numbers are the total numbers of armed forces personnel.The rest of the Top 25 looked like this:
|23. United Kingdom|212,000|
|25. Saudi Arabia|202,000|
So let’s assume that in the Top 10, South Korea is kinda busy right now. Pakistan is Right Out, as are Iran and Egypt (and the rest of the Arab world; right now to be a part of the occupation of Iraq means you may be deployed against some of these countries at some point in the semi-near future). That leaves China, Russia, India, Turkey, and Vietnam.
Let’s stick to the Top 10 right now. China and Russia both have huge dogs in this fight, as each of them faces their own issues with Islamists. India is certainly a possibility, but a) they probably realize that occupying – which will mean actively policing and intermittently killing people – a Muslim country right now won’t help tensions at home, and b) their eyes appear to be on the U.N. right now. But they are a possible player. Vietnam is a possible player, but they have no interests in the area. Turkey has been asked to dance, and has declined.
So we go back to China and Russia.
We don’t have much leverage in this area over China, and their willingness to see us taken down a peg certainly doesn’t motivate them to do much here.
But I think we do have huge leverage – positive and negative – with Russia, and that this presents a major opportunity that ought to be considered.
A few disclaimers: I’m not a policy wonk; I have access to nothing but the Wall Street Journal. The Economist, and Google. Foreign policy in the tactical sense isn’t my metiér, to say the least. But this notion has been nagging at me since I wrote the ‘Internationalization’ piece, and none of the research I’ve done since then has blown it up in my face. So I’ll toss it out here and see if you folks can blow it up.
I think we should be all over Vladimir Putin on this. I think the Russians have three strong interests in Iraq:
1) The Iraqis owe them a bunch of money for arms and oil equipment, and have outstanding contracts to allow them to explore for oil.
Russian weapons manufacturers have a powerful stake in Iraq. The latter owes Russia $7 billion for past weapons deliveries, which the Russian side still hopes to collect. Beyond that, Iraq is an attractive future market for their wares once the sanctions regime is removed. It has a long tradition of buying Soviet equipment. Both new equipment purchases and contracts to upgrade existing systems are a source of high hopes of Russian defense industrialists and exporters. Coupled with Iraq’s ability to finance its purchases with oil revenues, these hopes have resulted in a powerful domestic pro-Iraqi lobby in Russia.
For Russian oil companies, Iraq represents an attractive business opportunity — Iraqi oil is a good deal more accessible and cheaper to produce than oil from fields in remote regions of Russia, which is yet to be explored and developed. Russia’s special relationship with Saddam Hussein has put Russian companies in an advantageous position for political, rather than commercial reasons.
Thus, a handful of Russian oil companies have — depending on the mood of the Iraqi regime — held potentially lucrative contracts to develop oil fields in Iraq, once the sanctions regime is removed. Fully cognizant of the political motivations behind Saddam’s decision to award these contracts to Russian companies in the first place, Russian oil industry leaders and analysts suspect that in the event of regime change in Baghdad, Russian companies will be among the losers in the Iraqi oil sweepstakes–Saddam’s successors will be more likely to reward their backers with lucrative contracts.
2) The Russians have an immense stake in what happens to world oil markets once Iraqi oil comes on-line:
What quietly drives President Vladimir Putin’s strategy in Iraq is that Russia needs stability, especially in the oil markets. The pressure on Iraq has kept large volumes of crude oil off world markets and allowed the Russian government to navigate out of its debt trough on the back of high oil prices. But an American invasion is bound to upset everything. To be sure, in the first days of the attack, oil will jump to US$30 or $35 a barrel. But if the Americans establish the protectorate they say they are aiming for, then it is near certain that the spigot on Iraqi taps is going to open. The flood of new oil on to the market, by which the fresh Iraqi democracy will pay for its American tutors, will be so great, prices are likely to collapse to between $10 and $15. The American people will celebrate the victory all the way to their petrol pumps. The Russian people – approaching by then a parliamentary election, followed by a presidential poll – won’t be so cheery. They can kiss goodbye to much of the planned investment in the Arctic, St Petersburg and the Baltic shore, on Sakhalin and along the Pacific coast, all of which depends on the stability of oil prices at around $20.
3) The Russians have a similar worldview to the U.S., and even more at stake than the U.S. in combating Islamist terrorism:
Let’s take the following example. Europeans and Americans treat international terrorism in different ways. The US sees terrorism as an evil foe, which must be repelled by any means necessary. Bush has declared a war. US military policy toward terrorism is a wide-scale war, with bombings, offensives, soldiers, missiles, with death and destruction. If we don’t get them, they will get us. This outlook is rooted in the culture and messianic tradition of the US, their refusal to see shades of gray. A friend of mine told me that Americans are ready to defend a city whether or not its residents want to be defended.
If you look at the European approach to the same problem, you will see a fundamentally different outlook. Europeans see terrorism as criminality, not as a military foe, and fight it not with an army but with police force, with more stringent laws, stricter visa regimes – by sending the terrorists to jail. Americans don’t even want to bother with that, their position is to kill and destroy terrorists wherever they may be. And, starting from that dichotomy, the issue is not that the Europeans were against the war in Iraq. The issue is the appearance of diverging approaches to the same problem. In that sense, I am deeply convinced that Russia today will have a much easier time negotiating its military doctrine with the US rather than with Europeans, who live under a blanket of illusions and believe that nothing will harm them. Even in Great Britain, which is much closer, ideologically and mentally, to the US, Tony Blair has had a very difficult time convincing the public of the necessity of directly supporting the US. I believe that Putin will have a much easier time forming Russia’s military doctrine because Russia, in my view, looks at life and society in general more realistically than the Europeans.
Russia’s professional national security bureaucracy’s interest in the Gulf is of a less material nature. Lacking a concrete commercial interest, this group has not come to terms with the loss of superpower status. It harbors deep resentment of the United States and its preeminent position in the world–as well as in the Persian Gulf–and sees it in Russia’s national interest to oppose the United States, to undercut its influence and initiatives in the region regardless of their impact on Russian security or well-being. Thus, this group’s outlook is shaped by traditional, albeit outmoded, geopolitical considerations. However, given Russia’s diminished circumstances, this group’s ability to influence Russian policy is quite limited.
The professional national security bureaucracy has a further interest in the Gulf prompted by the increasing challenge of militant Islam to Russian national security. The war in Chechnya has attracted a good deal of attention in the Islamic world. The Chechen side is reported to have received support from a number of Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, in the form of both volunteers and material assistance. Russian authorities have also claimed repeatedly that Osama Bin Laden has provided support and training for Chechen fighters. As a result, curbing international Islamic support for the Chechen cause has become an active concern for Russian policy in the Gulf.
Overall, this presents a strong opportunity to do two things: first, bring the sponsor of much of the Arab Nationalist movement on board in striving for a remodeled Middle East, open a new rapprochement between Russia and the United States at a critical moment when the EU is attempting to create a EU/Russian anti-U.S. axis, and bring the resources of the second-biggest armed forces in the world to bear on the problems we will face.
There are huge obstacles; the Russian army has a history of brutal practices in Afghanistan which will be unacceptable; allying with the Russians will strengthen the mujads who remember fighting them; integrating our two armies will prove extremely difficult.
But for us, the benefits would be immense, in marginalizing the European opponents and taking the U.N. out of the center of the argument; bringing a major military to assist ours; and finally, in opening the doors for a real long-term association (“alliance” is too strong a term) with the Russians.
Ironically, the prospect of war in Iraq must be seen as an opportunity by some of Russia’s business leaders. They have been relentless in telegraphing to Washington with unprecedented clarity the price of Russian acquiescence to regime change in Iraq – a seat at the table when the time comes to divvy up the spoils of war, or in other words, assurances that they will get a piece of Iraqi oil after the war. With that they want acceptance and a chance to establish a dialogue with the political establishment in Washington. In exchange they offer their – considerable–influence at home, which they are prepared to deploy in order to help bridge the gap between the United States and Russia.
From a U.S. perspective, this is an opportunity that’s well worth exploring.
I couldn’t agree more.
So to answer Porphy’s 3 questions:
1) The Russians
2) Honoring prewar debts and oil contracts, stability in future world oil prices
3) See above.
OK, I step out and swing and…
— UPDATES —